Five things: What will summer hold?


1. What do the Flames need most?

With Brad Treliving now having completed his whirlwind media tour to assure the world that the Flames are going to be run competently, and the team having already put its farm club in Glens Falls (I have a hilarious note on that in a minute), the focus now turns to the coming draft and beyond.

Treliving, as any new GM of a team in full and bald-faced rebuild mode would, takes the gig with a lot of stuff already sitting on his plate. The first of these, I think, is the most evident is addressing the Flames’ NHL roster for the coming season, for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, the team’s focus should be on getting the young players in particular more experience at the NHL level if they deserve it (i.e. don’t just “pull a Monahan” and plug whoever gets drafted No. 4 overall into the big club’s roster for the year just because you feel like it’s a good marketing strategy), and spending as little as physically possible while doing it. The fact of the matter is that this team is unfortunately going to have to overpay some veterans just to get to the cap floor, which is fine, and I really hope you guys are amped to see Dany Heatley pull $5 million a year because it’s 100 percent going to happen.

But those players cannot, because of their status as veterans or the size of their paychecks, be given preferential treatment over the younger, better players on the roster. Which, by the way, gets into that whole philosophical thing about, “How much should you pay young players,” and that’s a debate for another day. (The answer is “as much as they deserve.”)

2. Young forwards

The Flames’ focus in the offseason should start with targeting and acquiring forwards under the age of 27 or 28 or so who can therefore be expected to contribute for more years of their possibly lengthy deals than the ones that will happen while the Flames are still rebuilding. Even if you think this is a team that can “rebuild on the fly” (you’re wrong, P.S.) the fact of the matter is that competing for anything resembling a deep playoff run is still at least a few years away. The team will need top-six guys at that point, and they’re not all coming from the current prospect pool.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this is not going to be a prime free agent destination, and therefore trying to grab guys like Paul Stastny, while a good idea, is pie in the sky fantasy stuff. Guys who fit that category and can probably be had by a team like Calgary probably include Mason Raymond, Benoit Pouliot, Nikolai Kulemin, et al.

All are bound to be bargain guys who the corsi crowd loves because they drive possession, and teams seem to undervalue consistently. A few years for each, a little more money than other teams would offer, and they’ll happily sign with Calgary, thus bolstering the team’s offensive numbers and still providing some “veteran presence” or whatever you want to call it. If you believe that older players teach younger ones how to succeed in this league, you should want a team of guys like this to impart that specific brand of wisdom.

3. Young defensemen

There frankly are not a lot of guys who fit the young-ish UFA mold in this regard who will not have a line out the door for their services. Matt Niskanen, for instance, played very well in Pittsburgh this year but seems likely to re-sign there, and even if he doesn’t, he’s not going to come to Calgary because of the offers he’s very likely to get from other teams. Period.

And frankly, there just aren’t a lot of possession defensemen out there who fit the “younger guy” mold. Anton Stralman, I guess, but he already had one kick at the can in Calgary and got 86ed. So you have to look at puck-moving D who don’t score a ton but who tilt the ice in their teams’ favor and are a little bit older.

One of these days I’m going to write something about market inefficiencies in the NHL today that the Flames can exploit, and the poster boy for that type of defenseman is going to be Tom Gilbert. Raw deal in Edmonton, went to Florida of all places without a contract, earned a one-year deal, played first-pairing minutes with Brian Campbell (another defenseman who’s criminally underrated in this league because of the price tag on a deal he signed a million years ago), and dominated opponents. Again, this was for Florida, so it’s not like he had a lot of help in getting the puck to the far end of the ice. He did it anyway. Ron Hainsey also fits into this mold, though he’s already 33.

It might also be wise for the Flames to target a few guys who might be out of favor with their current clubs (Dustin Byfuglien, Jake Gardiner) in trade, though obviously that wouldn’t be cheap or necessarily easy to pull off. It’s not quite saying, “It would be good if the Flames traded for Alex Ovechkin,” but it’s not all that far off either.

4. To be bad

All of this, though, needs to be done with an eye toward continuing to be in the bottom one-fifth or -sixth of the league. The good news is that if they add those guys, and a few other, more costly veterans, they’re not going to get appreciably better in the standings. These are guys who make a difference for the team, but they’re not Difference Makers, if you understand my meaning. 

The improvement over this past season’s performance isn’t likely to be substantial, but it’ll be there, and it’ll be a good foundation to build on when the team is ready to take a more significant step. And that, I think, is what a legitimate rebuild is all about.

5. And finally

Just a quick, funny note that came out of the Heat’s move to Glens Falls: Calgary wasn’t the first choice. Not that this should come as any great surprise, I guess, because of the geographic considerations (i.e. no one in upstate New York cares at all about the Flames) and also the fact that the Flames aren’t exactly a “hot” brand in the league right now. So no, of course they weren’t the first choice to take the Adirondack Phantoms’ place.

But the Heat also wasn’t the second, third, or even fourth choice for the city. It was the fifth choice. None of those teams were named in the article, but one flat-out refused, and three more said, “We’ll think about it.”

As for the Flames, “Their interest in Glens Falls resurfaced at the last minute this year.” Wonder what sparked that sudden new interest… Oh right, Abbotsford told them to take a hike. Right right right.

  • schevvy

    Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Flames were looking for new place for their AHL affiliate in the next 5 years. As you point out, literally nobody cares about the Flames in upstate New York, especially now that they don’t have a big name on their roster. (I.e Jarome). The only thing that might get some people to show up is Gaudreau, but I’m not sure if college hockey is as big in upstate New York as it is in other places in the U.S. (also I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flames kept him up with the big club, which is probably a bad idea)

    Remember when the Flames let Anton Stralman go so they could keep Steffan Kronwall.? Good times.

  • PrairieStew

    Disagree with point #2 forwards. There are 8 NHL forwards that will be part of the team for at least the next 2 years. I think of them as pairs – and form parts of each line 1. Backlund/Hudler 2. Stajan/Glencross 3 Monahan/Colborne 4 Bouma/McGrattan.

    There are 2 RFA’s whose contributions have been significant enough that you can’t let them walk for nothing and they fit into that window you talk about – and they are Byron and Galiardi. This leaves essentially only 3 positions for young guys to compete for 2 if you resign Westgarth ( book it). Reinhart/Knight/Arnold for 4th line centre; Gaudreau/Sven/Poirer for 3rd line w; Agostino/Van Brabant/Hanowski for 13th fwd ? This doesn’t factor Klimchuk or whomever is drafted at 4.

    As to defense I think we all agree Niskanen is the plum UFA. After that it is pretty thin – if you look for UFA defence under 30 and then sort by ice time one Chris Butler is very near the top of that list.

    • Parallex

      McGrattan is only under contract for this upcoming year so I don’t think you slot him into any two year plan (and dear gawd please don’t let Westgarth return). Also I would be very surprised if both Hudler and Glencross are here at the conclusion of the 2016 season I think one or both are going to be traded at some point before then.

      But regardless of that I agree that I think point two is off the mark… particularily with the acknowledgement in point 1 about the cap. The Calgary Flames we’ll see next year will greatly resemble the Calgary Flames we see this year we’ll just replace Cammy with some lesser skilled but overpriced forward (ala Heatley) maybe promote one young guy to replace Stempniak and another to replace Westgarth on the fourth line (Knight or Reinhart would be my guess).

      I kind of hope we throw a big offer to Niskanen. Legit top 4 d-man & young enough to still be contributing when the Flames next window happens. We’d have to significantly overpay but given the state of the pipeline with regards to blueliners I’m okay with that.

      • TheoForever

        I kind of hope we throw a big offer to Niskanen. Legit top 4 d-man & young enough to still be contributing when the Flames next window happens. We’d have to significantly overpay but given the state of the pipeline with regards to blueliners I’m okay with that.

        They will, guaranteed. Another guarantee: he won’t sign here.

        I would bet that he either re-signs with Pittsburgh or signs with the Sharks (as a replacement for Dan Boyle). Darkhorse would be Ottawa, who are even more desperate than Calgary for an upgrade to their blueline and are much closer to competing, but who may not be willing to spend.

        • supra steve

          Pitt has $55million spent on 14 players under contract for next season when the cap is expected to be around $71million. SJS have $57million spent on 16 players currently under contract for next season. Either of those squads are going to have to get really creative to fit Niskanen in next season.

          You can’t just look at where the “good fit” is anymore, economics have to be considered, and that is the factor that Calgary has in its favor if they go after someone like Niskanen.

          • beloch

            RE San Jose: Boyle’s 6.67 cap hit is coming off the books next season. If they bring back the exact same team, with Boyle substituted for Niskanen, you don’t think they can fit that under a cap that’s higher than last years (even figuring raises for Demers and Wingles)?

            PS: they could (and probably will) use a compliance buyout on Havlat. That’s another 5 mil off the books. That isn’t even coming close to “getting creative”

            Pittsburgh is tougher, but still possible. They could (and likely should) give Niskanen a raise at the expense of Brooks Orpik.

          • supra steve

            I didn’t say it was impossible, but teams do have to make choices. SJS have 8 spots to fill, and approx. $13.15million to do it. So if like you said Demers and Wingles get raises (and I think they will take up significantly more than the $2.275million they took up combined in cap space last year), how much is then left to sign 6 more players? Perhaps they do buy-out Havlat, but a lot of owners have been reluctant to use these buy-outs, so time will tell. And yes, I would call spending that kind of $ to have a player walk/create cap space “creative”.

            As for Pitt, I really don’t think they can do it. To many spots to fill, and not enough cap space. They may be looking at bringing along another of their young D (Pouliot/Dumoulin) to fill a spot cheaply.

        • Parallex

          Most likely… if that’s the case I hope we help make other folk overpay by giving him extra leverage in negotiations. If we can’t get better at least help make someone else worse then they could be.

      • PrairieStew

        True – McGrattan only under contract this year. He has an amazing amount of community cachet though and wouldn’t be surprised to see him extended very soon. I’d rather Westgarth not return also, I just think it will probably happen.

        I doubt Glencross will waive his NT. This is where he wants to be and he took a significant hometown discount to get that NT.

        Hudler might be traded but you’d better get a ton for him (a 2015 first and prospect) – he’s excellent value at $4m.

        • Parallex

          RE: McGrattan… I wouldn’t be surprised either. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Treliving wanted a face-puncher that can play better actual hockey and in the event that he doesn’t I also wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up getting Raitis Ivanan’ed before any extension could happen (which I obviously hope doesn’t happen but it’s a possibility that one can’t ignore). To many variables to assume he’s here any longer then the extent of his current contract.

          RE: Glencross… yes he did but his contract is up after the 14-15 season so if the Flames ask him to waive at the 14-15 deadline I’m pretty sure he’d allow it. I mean if the Flames are asking him to waive it’s either a pretty strong indication that he’s not in their future plans or if he is they can sell it as a “we’ll resign you July 1 and you’ll help us by getting us an extra asset and you’ll get a shot at the Cup and still get to play here… win-win”. Glencross isn’t a spring chicken either… he doesn’t fit into the Flames future longterm so I find it more likely then not that he’ll be moving on (one way or the other).

          • Parallex

            Glencross will agree to a trade only if he can land on an extension with the team he is being traded too! He has the leverage so Glenny make it expensive for them!

          • PrairieStew

            My mistake. I thought Scoreface had a couple of years left.

            I would not write him off just yet though. I think the team really missed him this year. When he was in the lineup they were 19-15-4 ; without him 16-25-3. One could argue he was more valuable than Cammalleri. They might be too competitive to be dealing veterans at the deadline – especially if they can upgrade that second defense pair in the offseason.

          • loudogYYC

            I dunno if the winning record towards the end of the season had a lot to do with Glencross. If anything I was surprised with how well the team played without him.

            Not saying that the team doesn’t need him, but Glencross is hands down the best trade chip the Flames have moving into this draft and next season. A cap-crunched team in need of a 2LW-3LW will not find a better deal than Glencross at $2.55M.

            Regarding the 4th line, LA was rumored to be looking to trade Kyle Clifford who’s a big bottom 6er who can be way more effective than Westgarth. I can see the Flames going after him or trying to sign Dan Winnik as a UFA.

            Either way, the Flames will not be ready to climb out of the bottom 3rd of the league until 2015-16. Just my opinion.

  • I would be a little surprised if all of Hudler, GlenX and Stajan were wearing the flaming C next season. These seem like vets that would have a somewhat decent trade value at the draft table.

    I could see one of the above packaged with a pick to pick up an additional pick and/or prospect.

    While I don’t want to see them all gone, I would be in favour of moving one of them to pick up a some additional young talent.

  • beloch

    1. Re: Paying the Kids
    Negotiations between a player agent and a GM are a bit like betting. Neither side knows how good the player is going to be in the future but they both want to maximize their return. Signing a veteran to a long contract is no sure thing. Doing the same thing with a rookie, fresh off his ELC, is a pure crapshoot! The agent will not accept money that would be fair for anywhere near the floor of the kids potential because that’s probably going to be a gross underpay. Neither is the GM going to pay anywhere close to the kid’s ceiling. The middle ground, unfortunately, can still be a horrendous contract, either for the player or the team. As an added problem, for most kids the middle ground is a gross overpay for their first couple seasons, guaranteed. Hello entitlement and future negotiating woes! Just ask the Oilers about overpaying rookies.

    So, do you lock players like Brodie or Backlund (who were not clearly elite at the time of their last contract negotiations) for term, or do you use shorter contracts until they prove themselves? Some players ease up once they get a long contract. Easing up for a few seasons in a row could lower a developing rookie’s ceiling. Arguably, what is most important are the odds of overpaying vs underpaying players. My (unconfirmed) suspicion is that overpaid players are more common than underpaid players, although that perception may be skewed by following edmonton (and the Flames of a few years ago, not this year) too much. If that’s true, keeping your contracts short will let your team get better than NHL average value.

    2: Forwards
    If the squid blows his ink-sack and disappears this summer then, yeah, get a vet or two to reach the cap floor. Let’s be realistic though, the UFA market is never good enough and always too expensive to give the Flames the offence they need. It’s going to be hard/expensive to find anyone worth keeping long-term. The best move is to look for some reclamation projects who are either young enough to keep or who might be flipped for a profit. The Flames also have a few forwards who just aren’t getting it done but are under contract. Hockey trades are possible.

    Bottom line, the most exciting offensive upgrades next season are likely to come from players the Flames already have. (e.g. Gaudreau, Baertschi, Byron, Granlund, Reinhart, etc.)

    3. Defencemen
    The Flames have a legit top pair in Brodie and Giordano. They have some big question marks in Wideman and Smid. One of these guys might be a legit second pairing defender next season if the Flames are lucky. The Flames have a couple of rookies who need more ice-time for anything definitive to be said about them. Butler will likely not be resigned. Russel was a revelation, but still wasn’t getting it done (with Butler) on the second pair. His offensive production was good but his possession stank. The Flames need at least one legit second pairing defender, who could come from free agency. They also need to start looking for prospects who might one day be first pairing defenders. Giordano is not going to be awesome forever so it’s smart to plan for his regression. That’s not something that can be addressed via free agency unfortunately.

    4. Better than Bad is good?
    There are a lot of X-Factor’s that could really amp up next season’s team even without Burke/Treliving going balls-to-the-wall to make the post-season. In particular, I think Gaudreau is going to shock-and-awe some people. I honestly can’t believe those that think a kid with a NHLE of 67.2 “might not be good enough” for the NHL just yet. There are enough other X-factors that I simply don’t share your pessimism. Next year’s team might not make the playoffs, but I sincerely doubt they’ll pick in the top ten again unless Burke/Treliving make a royal mess of things.

    5. Going the distance in NY
    How much do people going to AHL games in the U.S. really care about the parent club? The Heat seem poised to play good hockey for years to come if Burke/Treliving remain committed to keeping the farm stocked. However, even if the Flames surge to dominance within a few years, the flaming ‘C’ is never going to be a hot brand in NY. All we can really hope for is that the deal is sweet enough for Glen Falls to guarantee some stability for the Heat.

    • Parallex

      Oh, I think they’re probably finishing bottom 10… probably bottom five (Not dead last thou… no one is out-sucking the Sabres). Roster crunch is going to keep the team largely intact but a little worse for the loss of Cammy and Stemps.

      Let’s do a little poll… over/under on the Flames placement next year I’ll set it at 26.5: Trash for the under (27th, 28th, 29th, 30th Place Finish), Prop for the over (26th or higher).

      • FeyWest

        I think next year is going to difficult to tell where the standings will be, there’s a chance it’ll see us returning to 27th again, but I think #TankNation2015 will be a big factor.

        The Mcdavid, Eichel sweepstakes will be a much bigger draw for other teams to tank than it was this year. I could see us drafting anywhere from 4th -> 10th (My guess is 6th)

        • Parallex

          I don’t think TankNation2015 will be a thing… I actually think that most of the bottom 10 teams will be better next year (but probably not playoffs better) with the exceptions being the Sabres (amazingly considering how bad they were this year), the Flames, the Leafs, and maybe Vancouver.

    • PrairieStew

      Thanks for a good read.

      re: point #4 “Better than Bad is good?”

      You wrote:
      “Next year’s team might not make the playoffs, but I sincerely doubt they’ll pick in the top ten again unless Burke/Treliving make a royal mess of things.”

      I may instead characterize a royal mess of things if BB/BT make improvements with the result of not making the playoffs or not getting a top 10 (top 5?) pick.

      Hockey is now very much a bottom line business. If BB/BT can’t get one of the these two outcomes then they designed and implemented a poor strategic plan.

      What are the % odds the team will make the playoffs in 2014-15 depending on what options are at their disposal e.g. signing UFAs/RFAs, trading, picking.

      If BB/BT make moves and the 2014-15 team makes the playoffs then this would be a minor WIN for the organization! If the Flames make the playoffs and are set up to do so on a consistent basis thereafter with a sustainable development system that has solid prospects in the pipeline, then this would be a solid WIN. (a playoff contending team)

      If BB/BT make moves and the team comes in 17th-25th place they have FAILED…this is exactly where the Flames have been for the last 9 years and the team will not progress with more results like these.

      If BB/BT’s team focuses mostly on slowly and properly developing prospects and the team happens to position itself for a Top 5 pick plus have a boatload of new NHL-ready prospects to start the 2015-16 season then this is a WIN. Better yet it would be a STRATEGIC ORGANIZATIONAL WIN if the 2015-16 team is well positioned for a fast ascendancy (like the Avalanche this year) to become a top 8 Cup-contending team for the next decade.

      I for one hope BB/BT do not sell the farm to show really quick progress to stretch to make the playoffs…only to find they do not have the talent to sustain playoff-contention much less a cup-contending team. And in part caused by thinning out our current talent through trades to secure a couple “big” deals.

      Flames fans have provided the team with support and goodwill for patiently and properly developing a cup-contending team. Overzealous trades are not being forced by a long-suffering impatient fan base with a stressed franchise.

      Let’s hope BB/BT and the Flames do it right!!

      • beloch

        It’s pretty hard to go from picking in the top ten one season directly to the playoffs in the following season. It’s been done, but it’s not easy. I therefore don’t view a return to mediocrity as failure in and of itself. Being mediocre is a necessary stepping stone.

        On the other hand, I would view it as a failure if Burke/Treliving spent a lot of future assets (picks, prospects) to acquire veterans with a short shelf-life, only to miss both the playoffs and top ten. The key to long-term success is to keep the farm stocked so that the team can grow its own talent instead of buying (overpriced) talent from other teams or the UFA market.

        • Parallex

          Believe we are generally singing from the same songsheet but with different timing in mind.

          Buying talent, trading picks & prospects to make these trades, and ending up 17th-25th next year is a huge FAILURE in my books. This kind of mediocre speaks of trying to stretch too much too soon and having too far to go, and in the end mires us in the mucky middle-ground again.

          My thinking is wait a year, patiently and properly develop our current and new 2014 prospects, don’t wreck the team chemistry/culture by forcing the need for “success”, and draft high one more year.

          By then the team will have Monahan, Draisaitl or Bennett, and one more top pick before being ready for a 10 year Cup-contending run.

          Like a CHI, LAK, STL, ANA or BOS currently our Top 9 FWD will be quite solid by next year plus hopefully the Top 3 D…so we can add CAL to this list or contending teams.

      • TheoForever

        The dynamic in small US towns is different than in Canada. The other day Fan 960 was talking about it. AHL isn’t important College hockey is. They don’t seem to realize that AHL is higher level of hockey than college either. People there don’t care about parent club, they want to see a winning team on the ice.
        They can draw crowds or so the believe is.

        As for Abby, that’s Canuck territory so Flames not drawing any crowds is expected.

        • Parallex

          13 teams failed to break the 5k/per mark this year. 11 of those were in the us; 14 had totals of under 200k attendance in 38 gp, including division winners binghamton (3900 per, 56%) and springfield (3800 per, 55%).

          I am unconvinced that putting a winning team in the ne us is going to print money.

  • seve927

    Outside of the obvious guys, who will likely not sign here anyway, we should stay away from unresricted free agency.

    Trades will be paramount in gauging the success of this offseason not UFA signings!

  • RexLibris

    For me I would rather overpay on free agency than over pay on a trade and then still have to overpay the salary. Ideally this team could add two free agents or trade for aged 25-28 with 4 year deals; one on defence (that should be the priority) and one up front. The problem is the strength of this organization lies in the prospects and to acquire by trade what we need may be costly.

  • Parallex

    I have posted before and will again express my opinion that 2014/15 should again be a rebuild year where the Flames continue their development of young players and enhancement of the positive culture that has been in place here during the past season.

    Having said that the 2015 draft as very well documented will have 2 “generational” type players in McDavid and Eichel. For those FN fans who don’t know what this means simply put these guys are Sidney Crosby + talent and only become available on an exceptional basis, if ever. These players along with a solid foundation that is currently being built will assure the Flames franchise success for years to come.

    Now the bad news…the Flames need to finish 30th overall to be guaranteed one of these players with respect to the current draft lottery rules that are in place. My suggestion is for the Flames to somehow make this happen as there is no franchise or fans in the NHL that deserve this more than Calgary…then gun for the playoffs in 2015/16 season!!

    Remember a 20-15 place finish in the standings next year gets you nothing!!! The above strategy assures a short rebuild and a superstar + player that you can build your successful future around!

    • Parallex

      Agree, agree, AGREE!!!

      Flames are very well positioned for Eichel/McDavid generational player.

      Main competition is BUF, CAR and VCR with an expectation that perennial sad-sacks EDM, FLA, NYI may tank another year.

      • PrairieStew

        I doubt there is any hope in hell of Flames management letting this happen but boy are we poised to pull a Buffalo next year. Here is my Flames lineup for McDavid:

        1/We let Ramo start lots of games & sign one of these name perennial backups to a 1 year deal & let Ortio play lots in GF.

        2/We keep Gio/Brodie intact & roll with Wideman/Smid/Russell/Wotherspoon/Butler
        Pretty well status quo from last year. Injuries happen & hopefully we see Seiloff & Cundari get more time to fill in.

        3/Forwards is where we play the most kids, Hudler/GlenX/Backlund/Money/Gaudreau/Colbourne/Byron/Knight/Porrier/Arnold/Granlund roll through the top 9

        Mcgratts/Bouma/Reinhart/Agostino roll on the fourth line.

        As much as this has disaster written all over it from a win column point of view, lets accomplish 2 big things: 1/ A lot of kids are going to get a good look, get a good taste of NHL & may really surprise us & win a few games. Lets play the p out of them
        2/ injuries will no doubt hit & man, it will be bad & we may have our franchise player come June 2015.

        Hartley will not be thrilled & I don’t think we have enough salary with this lineup to make it to the cap floor. Maybe we give Butler & Byron 1 year 7.0mill deals to solve that problem, how ironic would that be?
        I would not have a problem with this lineup for next year, I really really want either McDavid or Eichel in a Calgary uniform.

        I know, this is wrong on so many levels, bad for the prospects, bad for the season ticket holders & we need to sign some established NHL players & just worry about picking the best player we can come June 2015. I know……..

  • mk

    RE: Abbotsford Heat in ‘Canucks Territory’

    Living in Vancouver, I’d have to say that the biggest problem with the Heat wasn’t the fan territory, but that they’re in Abbotsford. Unless you’re there or in the towns immediately next door, it takes FOR EVER to get out there on the highway. And games make you do it in rush hour usually. I’m talking 2 hours going down the highway at 25 km/h.

    I’m 100% that the Heat would’ve drawn larger crowds if they played in Vancouver/Surrey/Burnaby/Richmond.

  • Parallex

    Imagine Cammy elects to stay in Calgary. Would be perfect if we could re-sign him, lights up the light, having an extremely high trade value heading into next year’s deadline. And get a first-rounder for next year.

    Only one can imagine, however.